SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Good, The Normative, & The Rational
(Ethics, English)

In "Principia Ethica", Moore claims that the concept of goodness cannot be analysed or equated with any other concept or set of concepts. For the most part, I agree with him, but I will argue that none of Moore's claims amounts to the universal negative that there cannot be any conceptual analysis of the good whatsoever. I will argue that there is one such analysis that is not fallacious and is well motivated, namely the equation of the good with the rational. I will also discuss an upshot of this, specifically the possibility of non-intuitionistic knowledge of intrinsic goodness.

I accept a number of claims made by Moore in PE as constraints, and I hope to vindicate my conclusion in the context of these constraints to ensure its vindication absent them. First, I accept that the project of defining goodness must be a project of conceptual analysis. Second, I accept that the naturalistic fallacy is present in the ethical positions Moore discusses insofar as he paints an accurate picture of them. Third, I accept that goodness is unique, irreducible, and cannot be identified with any non-normative concept.

These claims, however, do not amount to the claim that Moore desires, namely that no conceptual analysis of goodness whatsoever is available to us. Moore's argument for this claim involves an assumption that any analysis of goodness must involve a reduction of goodness to a non-normative concept which is identified as the sole intrinsic good. But he fails to consider the equation of goodness with some other normatively rich concept, defined non-independently of the concept of goodness, in a relation of non-reductive synonymity. This is what I will propose in the case of the good and the rational: it is not that rationality is the sole intrinsic good, but rather that for something to be intrinsically good just is for it be intrinsically rational.

Moore invites us to imagine whether, for any analysis of the good into some concept or set of concepts, it would be impossible for a rational person to deny its validity. But Moore misunderstands conceptual analysis when he equates validity with obviousness -- indeed, for a conceptual analysis to be interesting it must be non-obvious. Rational misgivings about some conceptual analysis ought not in themselves give us reason to doubt it, provided the analysis is plausible, as I hope to show it is.

Chair: Katharina Anna Sodoma
Time: 18:20-18:50, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.007

Tom Swaine-Jameson 
(University of Liverpool, UK)

I began my philosophical education at the University of Sussex in 2008, starting a BA in Philosophy which I completed in 2011. I proceeded to an MA in Philosophy in 2011, focusing on ethics and metaethics, and graduating in 2013 with a Distinction grade. I then applied for research funding, and I won a studentship with the NWCDTP branch of the AHRC for full-time doctoral study at the University of Liverpool, where I have been since 2016.

I have given two talks at the University of Liverpool Graduate Conference, in 2017 and 2018, and at the Institute of Philosophy in Zurich in 2017. I attended the Summer School in Zurich that same year, and will be attending the Summer School in Budapest this coming summer at CEU, where I will also be speaking. I have also been employed to teach first-year undergraduates Political Philosophy since January of this year.



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